Ghada Waly

Director-General/Executive Director

CoSP9 side event: Women Leaders in Integrity:

Considerations for an inclusive recovery

  13 December 2021


Distinguished panellists,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am very pleased to be with you today, to confront the injustices inflicted by corruption on women everywhere, and to listen to and celebrate women who are leading the way towards integrity.

As we approach the end of the second year of COVID-19, the pandemic continues to cause hardship across the world.

Everyone has been affected, but not equally.

In many ways, women are bearing the brunt of the impact.

Women continue to disproportionally carry the burden of unpaid domestic work, and to have an unfair share of caregiving responsibilities.

In some parts of the world, they mostly work in the informal sector, which brings with it a high degree of vulnerability.

Women lost jobs at a higher rate than men during the pandemic, and the ILO predicts that while men’s employment levels will return to pre-pandemic levels, women’s will not.

The pandemic has underlined unfair realities.

Those realities are only deepened by corruption.

Research by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime has found that corruption perpetuates exclusionary stereotypes about women, limits their economic power, and curtails their opportunities for education.

Our recently launched publication on the gender dimensions of corruption, titled “the Time is Now”, also found that women often face harsher sanctions than men if found guilty of the exact same corrupt activities.

Furthermore, women are more likely to be victims of certain forms of corruption, such as abuse of power involving the solicitation of sexual favours.

We must do more to ensure that women are met with fairness, justice, and equality before the law.

Whistle-blower protection measures should be gender-sensitive and victim-centred, to encourage and support women to report corruption despite the specific dangers they face.

Other public processes should also incorporate gender dimensions, such as public procurement that links gender equality and women’s empowerment with financial gain.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Women deserve to be protected from the disproportionate impact of corruption on their lives, in this time of crisis more than ever.

But they are not just victims but agents of change; the world needs women to help lead the fight against corruption.

Precisely because of the trials that they face, women are equipped to bring in unique perspectives in building back with integrity after the pandemic.

As recovery mechanisms are put into place, women are best positioned to ensure gender-inclusive responses.

Women in decision-making roles understand - and are invested in addressing - the corrupt realities that often shape their experiences, especially in fields where they are unjustly denied their rights such as healthcare, education, and business.

Moreover, the very process of empowering women in leadership is a step against corruption, as it has been shown to disrupt long-standing networks of collusion.

We can pave the way for young girls to become future leaders.

Education is an essential stepping stone for young girls; they must have equal access.

Sports are also a powerful vehicle; by preserving fairness and integrity in sports, we can harness its potential to empower girls, promote good values, and build character.

Integrity is found in diversity.

Empowering women empowers us all.

At the first-ever UN General Assembly special session on corruption held in June this year, diversity and inclusion were central themes.

In the political declaration, Member States made an important and historical commitment to better understand the linkages between gender and corruption.

This week, here at the CoSP, there are several special events that will look at anchoring gender considerations in our anti-corruption work, both in the public and private sector.

I wish to highlight the proactive role being played by the newly established Group of Friends of Gender in Vienna. Their efforts have resulted in the inclusion of gender-related language in the Sharm El-Sheikh Declaration that is expected to be adopted at the conclusion of this conference.

On the ground, UNODC has worked extensively over the past two years, exploring this intersection between gender and corruption.

Our offices in Côte d’Ivoire, Fiji, Mexico, Myanmar, and Nigeria have worked with local groups, as well as partners such as UNDP and UN Women, to drive the discussion around this key topic.

In Fiji, for example, we have worked with women entrepreneurs to curb corruption in micro, small and medium-sized enterprises; in Nigeria, a gender analysis was carried out last year on data gathered during the 2016 and 2019 corruption surveys, to offer empirical evidence and encourage debate on this issue.

We have also investigated previous public health crises, in order to develop guidance for mainstreaming gender dimensions into wider anti-corruption measures, including during emergencies.

These insights are informing responses to this critical issue, and helping to support national, regional, and global approaches to tackling corruption from a gender perspective.

Women’s voices must be the boldest in shaping this perspective.

Today’s panel brings together inspiring women, whose leadership is driving efforts to tackle corruption. My appreciation to you for joining us.

By sharing your experiences and successes, I know that you will inspire others and help pave the way towards greater gender inclusion in the fight against corruption.

Thank you.